On Wednesday morning, Vogue.com announced that later this fall, the Japanese clothing behemoth Uniqlo is reviving its critically lauded collaboration with Jil Sander, the “Queen of Minimalism.” I jumped with joy! Jil Sander + Uniqlo + J is one of the most outstanding design collaborations of all time.
The cover of “T”, The New York Times Style Magazine, August 30, boasted these cover lines: “The Time Is Now. Nothing is certain. Change is here. Fearless fashion for a new reality”. I believe the time is right for uniform dressing predicated on beautifully fabricated wardrobe basics but at affordable prices.
Uniqlo’s press release announced a collection of versatile and exceptional pieces that define “the global modern uniform with understatement and ease.” Nobody does this better than Jil Sander, who launched her eponymous label in 1976.
I am a huge fan of Lucie and Luke Meier, the creative directors of the Jil Sander collection in Milan since 2017. It is luxurious minimalism at its finest, a play on masculine/feminine, with an emphasis on superb craftsmanship. Their collections look especially appealing right now.
While we don’t know the exact details of the upcoming Uniqlo +J collaboration, Jil is one of the most consistent designers on the planet. She has a finely honed aesthetic that does not change from season to season. So, you can expect to see a continuation and refinement of what she has done before.
Undoubtedly, there will be riffs on Jil’s iconic signatures: gutsy knitwear, perfectly cut cashmere pullovers and cardigans, superbly tailored wool coats and jackets, and of course, stellar outerwear played out in sophisticated neutrals: black, white, navy, camel, gray.
It was a sad day when Uniqlo announced that their five season-long partnership with Sander would end in the spring of 2011. It was so successful, and the basics had so much staying power, four years later, they reissued some of the most popular pieces from the archives, priced between $39.90 and $229.90. There were lines around Uniqlo in Soho for hours as fans lined up to grab what they could.
I own many of the iconic pieces from the line beginning with that first collection in 2009. They do stand the test of time. My inventory includes a few lightweight nylon hooded parkas, boxy wool pea jackets in navy and black, a double-breasted cotton poplin trench jacket, several cotton boy style coats in black, a thick ribbed black turtleneck with flyaway shape, and a thick black cotton trench coat with a zip outliner.
And I have several of the well-insulated hooded puffer jackets. They are featured in the ad campaigns and are truly exceptional. One is cropped, made of black wool, and zips up the front.
The “Line Jacket” in forest green, has a zip and snap closure, large front pockets, and a shaped waist for a feminine cut. The high collar offers extra protection and warmth. It’s similar in shade to the green Brandon Maxwell dress Dr. Jill Biden wore last week. Green is definitely in the air these days!
As they say, “God is in the details” and for Sander who turned 77 in November, it’s all about the details. Jil’s collars stand at attention; the pockets are always perfectly placed, the buttons, zippers, and snaps are still distinctive. Jil’s white cotton poplin shirts, which are always popular, are deceivingly simple, like everything else in the line.
But, there are subtle details like a hidden button placket, matching tailored body panels, gusseted chest pocket, and +J logo embroidery on the left hem. It is slightly wider in the back for a boxy, roomy look and elegant profile.
Jil’s hybrid Jacket uses down and cotton insulation for different parts. An all-black minimalist design with hidden zipper and buttons, accentuated by the oversized collar and grosgrain pocket trim. Flaring bell-shaped sleeves create a refined feminine silhouette.
The Uniqlo+J collection has more in common with the experimental designs of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo than the Gap or Madewell! Jil, whose focus is always on fabrication and silhouette, once said that she feels close to their “experimental reduction and the emotion in everything they do”.
Collaborations are a dime a dozen these days. Some admittedly work better than others. Sander’s challenge is to “establish a premium quality in a democratically-priced range” as she once told WWD. What makes this one work is that Jil is very impressed with what Uniqlo does, and she carefully considered before renewing her contract.
During the May 7th installation of “Vogue Global Conversations”, Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond suggested that it would take months to know what our new reality would look like, and he said that it would be impossible to design for that new reality until 2021. Well, I’ve seen the future, and the future is almost here with the arrival of Uniqlo + J.
You don’t need to read tea leaves to know Sander’s brand of refined understatement and minimalism at a democratic price point hits just the right spot. The collaboration’s mission is to improve life with thoughtfulness, accessibility, and high-quality pieces.
Now, if we could only get Phoebe Philo to follow suit!